“Finland? Why Finland? I mean – Finland?”
This brief dialogue summarizes the reaction of my parents when I decided to study two semesters abroad here. Whereas I was totally enthusiastic about Finland, they were not convinced at all. That is incomprehensible, I thought, how can one be not attracted by its excellent education system, breathtaking nature and authentic people? Now I know that my parents had different associations, such as coldness and a difficult language, when “Finland” came into their minds.
Like corporate brands, countries also awake positive and negative feelings in us. In 1996, Simon Anholt introduced the term nation branding, which is an “important tool used by countries to create, change or promote a distinct self-image and international reputation that serves the nation’s interests” (EPIC Global Media). Governments hire PR-agencies to boost tourism, attract FDI, facilitate international trading, enhance private sector competitiveness, and ensure geopolitical influence. Social network platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are crucial channels to communicate national brands.
In Finland, the country brand is managed by the Finland Promotion Board guided by the government. To effectively communicate the goals defined in several strategy reports, they established the campaign Visit Finland and created accounts in the most important social networks. Thus, the nation branding messages are spread across a broad audience.
What do you think about Finland’s represented image in social media? Do you (dis)agree? What are your strongest associations with the country?
As a big Finland fan, I was totally amazed by the Youtube campaigns of Visit Finland. I admire everything in close touch with nature, including people of an honest character and a lifestyle of “give and take”. In my opinion, this is what Finland basically is about. Having lived here already for a couple of months, I confirm that its branding efforts definitely express Finland’s national identity; nicely packaged, of course.
Without doubt, the use of social media in nation branding is a crucial tool to deliver the desired image of a country. However – coming back to my parents – it does not guarantee that everybody is attracted. Unlike propaganda, nation branding does not aim to radically convince nor proselytize people’s opinion, but rather embody the national spirit and lifestyle of a country.
EPIC Global Media: http://www.epicglobalmedia.com/blog/the-what-why-and-how-of-nation-branding/
Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.epicglobalmedia.com/blog/the-what-why-and-how-of-nation-branding/
Finnish Tourist Board: ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/tourism/eden/eden_network/meeting-10-06-2010/jaakko_lehtonen_en.pdf